- A video shows the damage that can be done to an aircraft’s wing during a collision with a drone.
- It blasts a hole in the plane’s wing, and research suggests drones could also shatter a cockpit window.
- Gatwick Airport, the second-biggest airport in the UK, closed its runway for more than 32 hours due to drones on the runway.
- The exact effect a drone could have on a plane varies hugely. Some have landed safely after collisions, but nobody wants to take the risk .
A major British airport was forced to close closed for more than 32 hours due to drones on the runway.
This video of a drone colliding with a plane’s wing helps explain why it decided to ground all planes despite the major disruption the precaution has caused:
Researchers at the University of Dayton launched a 2.1 pound DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter at the wing of a Mooney M20 light aircraft.
They fired the drone at 238 mph to see what happens when a drone hits a plane’s wing at the kind of speeds that planes can fly at. They said the physics of these kinds of impact is poorly understood by both the aviation and the drone industry.
The done did not shatter on impact. Instead, it blasted a large hole in the plane’s wing, which the researchers describe as “significant damage.”
The plane is smaller than a typical passenger jet, which would likely take less damage since it is significantly bigger.
The level of damage caused by a collision would depend on the weight of the drone and the speed of the plane.
Commercial airline pilot Patrick Smith wrote in a blog post that a collision with a regular drone, like the one in the video, would probably not bring down a passenger jet.
But it could cause millions of dollars of damage by wrecking an engine or damaging other surfaces on the plane.
Heavier drones, which tend to be for commercial use, could be much more serious.
Kevin Poormon, group leader for impact physics at the University of Dayton Research Institute, said that it is “only a matter of time” before a major drone collision happens in real life.
“We wanted to help the aviation community and the drone industry understand the dangers that even recreational drones can pose to manned aircraft before a significant event occurs,” Poormon said.
London’s Gatwick airport decided to shut its runway at 9 p.m. on Wednesday after drones were spotted over the runway, and reopened at 6 a.m. on Friday, though delays and disruptions are expected throughout the day.
The disruption at the UK’s second-largest airport affected more than 120,000 people through delays, cancellations, and rerouted flights, and has left people sleeping on grounded planes and on the airport floor.
Gatwick Airport said it closed its runway for the safety of passengers. “We apologise to everyone affected, but the safety of all our passengers and staff is our no.1 priority,”the airport said on Thursday.
Research on how a drone could harm a plane is limited.
Studies from theAlliance for System Safety of Unmanned Aircraft System Through Research Excellence found that a drone could break the windshield of the cockpit and that batteries from the drone could become lodged in the plane and cause a fire.
Ravi Vaidyanathan, a robotics lecturer at Imperial College, London, told the BBC that the threat to a large aircraft by a drone is “small but not negligible.”
The University of Dayton researchers said that drones are similar in weight to birds, which can damage planes, result in canceled and delayed flights through colliding with planes and are estimated to cost US airlines $US1.2 billion a year.
Planes have still managed to land after being hit by a drone. A drone crashed into a commercial aircraft’s wing in Canada in 2017, but the plane only sustained minor damage and landed safely.
Nonetheless, authorities don’t want to take the risk. Disrupting an airport with a drone is a crime in many places, including in the UK, where disruption like that at Gatwick can be punished with five years in prison.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.